Once again this Sunday, I attended the Tucson American Evangelical Lutheran Church on Tucson Blvd, and Broadway. And once again it was a spiritual experience.
Having lived in Bellevue, Washington (home to corporate giants Microsoft and Boeing) since 2006, I had kind of forgotten what a real town is like. Real, as in good old-fashioned working-class and blue-collar real. Like they say down in Texas—“All hat, no cattle.” Well, Tucson is kind of mostly cattle, and very little hat.
The folks in Church come dressed for comfort. There, one is likely to encounter parishioners in various styles of dress—all the way from simple tee-shirts and tennis shoes, to white shirts, ties and jackets—(although very few of them). Even the Pastor confesses to forgetting his stiff collar insert most of the time when the weather heats up in the summer.
Gaudy and show-off dress may be in short supply, but good old-fashioned praise the Lord spirituality isn’t. The songs are sang with gusto—piano booming and tambourine shaking.
I love it. It harkens back to my own beginnings—growing up in a Presbyterian Church descended from Scottish and Irish roots and traditions.
The plain and simple and down-to-earth lifestyle of Tucson was further reinforced on my drive home, when I encountered a cowboy riding his horse on the sidewalk near the intersection of Golf Links and Kolb. Yeah, I know this post is supposed to be about religion—but the rodeo is coming to town, and believe me—that is religion to an awful lot of folks around these parts.
The Pastor of the American Lutheran Church here in town—The Rev. Kim R. Taylor, is no dummy—holding a Master of Divinity Degree. But he also isn’t a stuffed shirt. Forswearing completely the traditional sermon preached safely from behind a pulpit, Pastor Taylor strolls among his flock, speaking as much with them, as to them—as he dispenses his well thought out message for the week—calling them by their first names, and encouraging a response. The highest point of the entire interaction, it seems, is when he is able to produce in the crowd a good spontaneous, and hearty laugh.
The congregation does not fall asleep.
A good minister—one that knows how to deliver a message, with humor and humility–and a congregation that loves its leader—is a wonderful thing to see.
I encourage anyone in the area of this very special little Church to drop by and give it a look—and Pastor Taylor a listen. You might just want to stay awhile.
You might just want to stay for a lifetime.
I kind of got my nightie in a knot a few days ago. I was reading a news story on Yahoo news on my computer—the one about a crazed Palestinian that drove his vehicle into a crowd of Jews on a crowded Jerusalem street—seriously injuring five. His actions were immediately praised by Hamas, the political party currently in charge in Palestine.
Yahoo News stories are always followed by a “comments” section. Sometimes the most interesting parts of the story come out of this section. I probably read the comments about half the time. They never fail to be a font of both information, amusement, and fodder for a lot of these blog articles.
One particular post by a gentleman proved this to be the case once again this week.
An atheist of long standing, he stated his opinion that most, if not all, of the world’s problems came from the very existence of religion. The violence displayed by members of all of the world’s religions came, he postulated, from the dark and small minds that could even begin to imagine the actual existence of a God. He said that such people were stupid, backward, red-necked and idiotic—much like the folks that actually believed in the existence of another well-know (at least according to him) myth—Sasquatch (or Bigfoot).
Do away with religion, and stupid people, he said—and we would be well on our way to realizing the utopian society that we richly deserve—but which has long eluded us.
Well, of course I couldn’t resist replying.
My answer went something like this:
Dear Sir: “How can you mean to say that Sasquatch doesn’t exist? That’s just plain crazy. I might be willing to accept a world without God—but Sasquatch? Never!!!” signed, a simple-minded and stupid reader.
In another words, I kind of felt that Bigfoot needed to be defended. Certainly God does not. I hope the recipient of my comment got the point—but I kind of seriously doubt it.
God exists—whether we believe in him or not. Simple as that.
The fact that we haven’t blown the planet to smithereens since the age of nuclear power kind of proves it. Stop and think about it. Just about every single good and worthwhile thing that exists on the globe today came about because of good old-fashioned Christian charity and compassion.
The world was a pretty dark, bleak, empty and scary place before the Son of God came along a couple of thousand years ago. What he brought into the world was, along with salvation and redemption—compassion. The compassion of a God, who for a time, inhabited a body of one of his vast creation. A God whose feet trod the dusty roads of mortality. A God that felt what we feel, experienced what we experience, bled—and for a time, cried—right along with us.
He know us. He loves us—and most of all—he has compassion on us. And this compassion was given to us, a gift to be liberally spread around, and re-gifted at every opportunity.
It is all that has stood between us and the void for a very long time.
God’s compassion isn’t limited to Christians either. Good and honorable men and women of all faiths—Christian, Muslim, Jew, Buddhist, Hindu, or follower of the venerable Confucius—are all heir to this incredible gift. We see its works in all corners of the globe.
Yeah, we see the other too. The modern-day Orcs and Death-eaters. But these are not men of God—they are followers of something else entirely.
But that’s for another time.
The writer of that Yahoo comment further stated that modern science has eliminated the possibility of the existence of God. Science—according to this gentleman—was the new God. There was no room, according to this luminary—for anything else.
Well, maybe not so fast.
You see, I kind of consider myself to be perhaps, just a little-bit smarter than the average bear. I consider myself to have somewhat of a “scientific” mind. I actually understand (at least in principal) the equations of Einstein. I have followed the work of both the classical physicists and those of more modern times—the quantum physicists.
I doubted the existence of God myself—back when I was young and foolish. I turned to a study of science to prove to others (and myself) that there simply wasn’t any room anywhere in the universe for God. That everything has a solid and objective substance, form and existence—independent of individual observation. All of the big questions had been decided, and worked out.
Science was in—God was out.
Trouble was—in the study of science, I found, just as many had before me—God himself. There he was—not in the vastness of space, but before our very eyes—in the world of the very, very small.
Big things are made of little things. And then even smaller things yet. Rocks, birds, cows and dining room chairs—right along with everything else—are made of molecules. Molecules are made of atoms. Atoms are made of sub-atomic particles. Sub-atomic particles are made of . . .
Well, what exactly are they made of? Electrons, neutrons, quarks, etc. What are they made of? Here’s where it gets interesting—and more than just a little bit dicey. They don’t seem to be made of anything at all—at least as far as our much-vaulted science can tell.
It seems that the nearest science can come to describing what the smallest of the smallest bits of everything is made of, is to call it “information.” Basically the very same numerical information that makes up the all too real looking television programs and computer games that we all love to watch and play.
We are—all of us—and everything else that exists in the entire Universe—basically nothing more than numbers and pure thought. We may, just like those computer images and very real looking computerized special effects, be nothing more than images, or thoughts, programed by an entity somewhere far away—perhaps in another dimension.
We may—all of us—and everything that is—exist as basically just a thought in the mind of God.
Think about it this week. Think about it good and hard. And then, I humbly suggest—get thee to a Church on Sunday.
I know a good one at Tucson Blvd, and Broadway—and others all over town as well.
You might like it.
It might just be the smartest thing you’ve ever done.
That’s my rant for the week. Thanks for reading. See you all again next week.
Dumb Church joke of the day:
Who was the greatest financier in the Bible? Noah–he was floating his stock while everyone else was in liquidation.